meet the shepherd dogs of the Pyrenees

On the same subject

Aspe Valley: In Lescun, autumn, sheep and men

Former journalist at “L’Équipe”, pyreneist and author of a book on the GR 11, André-Jacques Dereix sent us a report on the sheep of the Lescun circus at the beginning of December. We publish it today, when the mountain has whitened and autumn is already far away. Like a nice end-of-year tale.

Along with the sheep are mounted the shepherds, one or more depending on the size of the flocks, and, of course, the famous shepherd dogs responsible for making them walk or ensuring their protection. These are essentially border collies, labrits, and of course patous. About the latter, Jean-François Nouqueret, breeder in Lescun, assures us that we must say “pastou” and not “patou”. Why ? Because of the link pastor-pastoral-pastou, knowing moreover that shepherd is said pastou in Basque. Everyone will choose. As he will choose in patsous stories.

Back to do, patou and border.

Back to do, patou and border.

A J. D.

Henri Mougnague, another breeder, has one which has the particularity of not having a name, of not having been baptized and of not having a health record. “Some days he bites, some days he doesn’t,” says his master. Like its congeners, in short. With a kind of small mat on the top of the head, this anonymous dog looks a bit like a bath duck.

“The patou (without esse) of Mougnague, it’s a disaster”, laughs Henri Gay, also a breeder and who has known aggressive pastous “who tore off the bottom of pants as soon as we had our back turned” and ended “you should never trust these dogs, they are too unpredictable. »

Can the same be said of the four (yes, four) patous owned by Jean-Marc Claveranne, another Lescunois breeder? To be honest, you don’t act proud when you enter your sheepfold and these four polar bears (a mother and her three cubs) appear roaring before calming down. Why these four patous?

Scary, the patou?  Not mandatory.

Scary, the patou? Not mandatory.

A J. D.

“We had them very young, explains Ms. Claveranne, so we kept them. Hikers can be reassured, this quartet does not climb mountain pastures.

On the other hand, a few years ago, at the Ansabe huts still in the Lescun circus, an aggressive patou sowed panic in the ranks of hikers. “It couldn’t last like that, explains Dominique Cauhapé, a regular at the place, it was embarrassing, there are a lot of people going up to the Aiguilles or the lake. Suddenly, the patou of discord disappeared one day without leaving an address. “We don’t need patous as long as there are no wolves, adds Dominique Cauhapé, we will advise when there are. »

Once King Patsou is seated on his throne – it happens, however, that the sheep push him aside so that he leaves them alone – we can take an interest in the fate of his little congeners.

The labrit, the barker

Some thirty years ago, a shepherd from the Ossau valley, Jean-Louis Laborde-Boy, raised a cry of alarm in the columns of our colleague “La République des Pyrénées”. According to him, the race of the labrit was in danger of becoming extinct because of hazardous crossings.

Today, the breed has recovered, a sign that it is doing better given the competition that opposes the border collie. Each party has its supporters.

Those of the border collie argue that there is not necessarily a need to train him and that he will look for sheep further than his rival; that he does not bark, contrary to the labrit which does it a lot; that the labrit is stubborn and surly, that it will bite the legs or the wool of the ewes while the border is much less excited…

The border collie, the raw instinct of the herding dog.

The border collie, the raw instinct of the herding dog.

A J. D.

On the side of the friends of the labrit, we retort, by the voice of Jean-Pierre Poey, pure shepherd in a century-old beret, “the border collie is too sophisticated, I will see him lying on a sofa” or, according to a colleague , “the labrit is not remote-controlled, it can take the initiative for a task on its own, it is capable of entering the herd to make it maneuver”.

“The labrit is not remote-controlled, it can take the initiative of a task alone”, appreciate its supporters.

A J. D.

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